TAMPA — In the first meeting of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees since state university system leaders voted to delay the independence of USF's branch campus in Lakeland, the board's chairman created a five-member trustee committee to oversee that transition.
"I'd like for this work to be done with maximum communication and transparency," said chair John Ramil. "Effective and timely completion of these milestones would be in the best interest of the USF system and USF Polytechnic."
The USF Poly issue was touched upon multiple times during the Thursday morning meeting.
First with the announcement of those task force members — Brian Lamb, who will serve as chair; Stephanie Goforth; Stephen Mitchell; Byron Shinn; and Jordan Zimmerman — and again in USF Poly regional chancellor Marshall Goodman's remarks.
Goodman assured the USF leaders that the campus was working hard to meet those independence benchmarks. The school now has more than a dozen searches underway for new faculty members, he said, and hopes to rapidly increase its student enrollment in STEM degrees from the current 17 percent to 50 percent.
After that, the trustees moved on to a presentation by provost Ralph Wilcox on USF's STEM policies, but soon after, USF Poly was on their lips again. During the round table discussion trustee Elizabeth Bird, president of the USF Faculty Senate, blasted Goodman's leadership during the firestorm before the independence decision.
She shared with the trustees a vote by the USF Polytechnic faculty senate that voiced "no confidence" in Goodman after what they deemed a disregard of their opinions in the split debate. A majority of the faculty wanted to stay a part of the USF system.
USF Student Body President Matt Diaz echoed Bird's message on behalf of the students.
But USF Poly wasn't the only item on the table.
The board also voted to approve a new student fee that will help pay for internships and co-ops. It was supported by the USF Student Government as part of a compromise that would make it "cost-neutral" for the first year. That means that cost increases on two other fees that would be automatically hiked with tuition will be frozen, and the new fee will cost whatever that hike amount would have been. So students end up paying more, but only as much as they would have paid anyway, without the fee.
USF President Judy Genshaft gave her update to the board on the USF system and USF Tampa — speaking about the recent Florida A&M University hazing scandal and asserting that USF works hard to discourage that kind of behavior, and lauding the university for moving from No. 8 to No. 5 in a ranking of military-friendly schools and for having its first Marshall Scholar.